Monday, July 26, 2010

Probiotics at the vet

My dog Rocco developed haemorrhaegic diarrhoea. Normally I treat my dogs with herbal medicine, but in this instance I decided a diagnosis from the vet would be necessary, because I needed to be sure that it wasn't biliary causing this. Luckily it wasn't biliary but the faecal swab didn't help with a diagnosis. The vet offered me antibiotics and probiotics. I tried to explain to him that I was going to treat him myself, but I think he was very alarmed at this. He thrust the box of probiotics at me and urged me to at least take them! Unfortuantely for him, I was firm in my refusal, but I promised to let him know how Rocco was doing the following day.

Now I've got this "thing" about probiotics. I don't think that they are going to be effective if the gut is raw and inflamed. So in my opinion it is preferable to soothe and heal the gut first. This I did with oats and slippery elm, which had the extra effect of binding the stool and stopping the diarrhoea. If the patient has seldom or never had antibiotics, the gut should repopulate with microflora very naturally, as long as there is a good base for them to adhere to. Hence first putting down the "soil" or prebiotic in the form of slippery elm and oats. Brewer's yeast is a valuable help in treating diarrhoea as it is anti pathogen and supports the good bacteria. Luckily dogs love it and once Rocco got the first tiny bit of appetite he ate some. And for those sceptics that read somewhere that brewer's yeast is not good if you have candida, according to reasearch it is actually anti candida. (German Commission E Monographs)

I recently read a statement in a health magazine that probiotics are essential - as if one will never recover without them. I am immune to such advertising and am very anti products in general. In my view it's all a money making racket. Unless one is severely immune compromised, the gut flora will recover nicely. But the diet must support healthy flora. A bad diet will support "bad" bacteria.

Anyway, bless the vet. He did his best. Rocco has made a good recovery.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Organic growing

Growing organically is so much more than not using herbicides and pesticides. I have about 1000sq metres of garden, of which about half is for herbs and vegetables and the rest is ornamental. There is also a lawn, which is as small as possible. Over the years I converted most grassed areas into low maintainance areas filled with hardy perennials. My one rule for the entire garden is that no poison whatsoever is used anywhere. The two chickens have done an excellent job over the years getting rid of most pests. And because I have several ponds, frogs have helped with this job. Occasionally there is a plague of something like hairy caterpillars or flea beetle, but I just wait until it's over. I have been making some sprays using tinctures like tincture of Tagetes minuta (otherwise known as Khakibos) and combining various left over or expired tinctures for stubborn things like scale and sooty mould, with some success. One does need to be regular with treatment!! And I'm not always good at that. Somebody developed a glue that is non toxic, which I use as a barrier on the trunks of trees to stop the ants from travelling up and down and adding to the disease problem. This glue is available at hardware stores (in SA) and is called vastrap. It's really excellent.

We have very few commercially available organic traps and devices to prevent coddling moth etc here in SA. I have tried home made bait, but have yet to pick a perfect apple from my tree! The glue will probably help, but the challenge will be to be regular with the application, as it does wear off over time.
So for me it's a balance between allowing nature to sort things out, and trying various herbal remedies. My aim is to leave this patch of earth in a good state when I finally move on. And hope that the next owners would do the same. But that I think is a vain hope. Most people seem to spray every little weed. When I go for a walk and have to smell the toxic fumes from someone spraying, they get a dark look from me. I haven't got to the stage where I evangelise yet.........

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In my herb garden

Here in Cape Town it's winter now and most herbs have died down. There is a carpet of leaves from the apple tree and generally the soil is well mulched. My two chooks tend to scratch the leaves away, but they are feasting on any insect eggs or larvae that would otherwise produce greedy monsters in the spring. This time of year the chooks do their best work and I allow them much more freedom. It is a bit annoying that they always poo on the pathways, but at least the poos are the sort that you can pick up and throw into the beds, not like duck poos which are just a squirt!
Herbs that are thriving at the moment are Marrubium vulgare, from which I make a cough syrup; Alexanders which have no remarkable medicinal value and which self-seed rather alarmingly, but look very nice when their seed heads form. One is supposed to be able to use the seeds like pepper, but I'm not impressed with them. The Southernwood is sprouting nicely after being cut back and stinging nettles are simply thriving. But they are so useful that I am very happy that they are in abundance. Not only do I use a lot of stinging nettle in my practice, but also as a green manure and a stinky liquid manure in the garden. One can never have enough. The chooks have stripped my yarrow. It must keep them very healthy because they love it and are both very healthy and lay well, despite being 8 years old at least. I've lost count of how many years they've been a very sweet part of my life. I really adore them both, unless they eat my seedlings. But that would be my fault anyway, and generally I use enviromesh to keep them and insects off my crops.